Review Summary: Where's the blues?
ZZ Top gave us some signs on their previous release, that they were shifting from the down and dirty boogie anthems they were renowned for in the 70's, to a cleaner more commercial sound. "Eliminator" was a huge financial success, so in 1985, the boys from Texas released Afterburner.
This is what I like to call a singles album. Every song on here was created to be an arena rock hit. With sing along choruses, simplistic song structures, no depth to the lyrics, and the worst offender, no blues. This album is the closest thing to pop the boys from down South have ever released.
ZZ Top try to keep some rock going with tracks like "Rough Boy", "Planet of Women" and "Sleeping Bag". But most songs are just generic pop-rock throwaways like "I Got the Message" and the ridiculously titled "Dipping Low in the Lap of Luxury". None of these tracks will really grab your attention, or stimulate your senses in any way. "Woke Up With Wood" is a pretty fun song, but nothing special.
The absolute best track on the album is "Delirious" finally showing the band still had some blues riffs still in them. But even the album's best can't help it from being a collection of pop ditties. If you wan't to hear straightforward pop tunes by one of America's greatest blues rock bands, just check out the top 40 singles "Velcro Fly" and "Stages".
If you are going to give this album a listen, be prepared for the most commercialized blues record you will ever hear. From beginning to end the album shows almost no sign of their blues. Dusty Hill ditches his bass for a pop synthesizer, and Frank Beard's drum kit gets even more electronic sounding. Song structures are simplistic, and often times you will forget if you are listening to a ZZ Top album or a Depeche Mode album. To even further the band's commercial route, a string of music videos for MTV were released with a loosely based story line linking them all together.
Let's get this straight, right off the bat, you will not be listening to "Deguello". If you want a good blues album, get as far away from here as you possibly can. But if you want to put on your retro shades, this album is a lot of fun, just not in the way you might expect from ZZ Top.
Good old fashioned 80's fun
Way too synth heavy
Filler is common place